NSM Focus | Interview with an alumna: Leonie Broere

She founded the study association Mundus, developed a broad perspective on her field, and changed her mind about the textbook she used to find so frustrating. Leonie Broere speaks about her time as a student of Human Geography.

Leonie BroereWhen you were in secondary school, what did you want to be when you grew up?

“What I wanted was to discover a miracle drug against cancer. So I attended an open day for a laboratory study programme. Once there, though, I quickly realised it wasn’t the right place for me. Luckily, I had a Plan B: Human Geography. A guest teacher at our secondary school once told us about it with great enthusiasm. I considered various universities, but the small scale of the Nijmegen programme really appealed to me.”

Did the programme meet your expectations?

“Absolutely. I immediately felt at home here. I met some nice people during Introduction Week, engaged in lots of activities with my Hoogeveldt flatmates, and had good contacts with fellow students during lectures and seminars. It all went smoothly.”

What’s the one thing you’ll always remember about your study days?

“A textbook by De Man and Koene; I can’t remember the title now. All Management students had to work with it. It offers a very broad perspective on the field. At the time, I didn’t find this interesting at all. I just wanted to focus on Human Geography. Now I’m happy I had the chance to develop such a broad perspective.

Another thing I’ll never forget were the lectures of Barbara Hooper, a colourful American guest lecturer. She had a truly unique way of teaching. I remember a half-hour discussion about the colour of a chair. Was it orange or yellow? At first I thought: What are we doing here? But then it dawned on me: there are different perspectives out there, there is no such thing as the truth, and your truth is affected by who you are. It was incredibly instructive.”

What did you do besides studying?

“Quite a lot. I worked as a student assistant for three years, I founded study association Mundus and was a board member for two years, I organised the first Mundus study trip, and I was very active at the Heyendaal student volleyball association. I always made time to learn more than theory alone. Meetings, collaborations, joint decisions – even when you can’t get people to agree – these are things I learnt a lot from. In my current job I often coach interns and I can really tell the difference between those who did a lot of activities alongside their studies and those who didn’t, among other things in how they approach people and take initiative.”

How did your own career start?

“As a student assistant, I was asked to temporarily replace the Policy Officer for Education. I didn’t really know what the job entailed, but I knew the Faculty and the people well, so I accepted. My second job was an internship at Arnhem-Nijmegen City Region. Thanks to the high-quality coaching, an internship is the perfect way to get used to working life and get to know yourself as an employee.
After that I worked for a project agency on improving social security and liveability on public transport on the Arnhem-Winterswijk and Vallei railway lines. In 2013, I took a job at Arriva, where I’ve worked for the past three years as Manager for Quality, Health, Safety and the Environment. My team is responsible for guaranteeing service quality. We test and advise, closely monitor the expectations passengers and politicians have of Arriva, and try as much as possible to meet market demand. We also take care to minimise our environmental impact and guarantee the safety of our passengers and staff. My job is incredibly diverse. In terms of content, I don’t always know all the ins and outs, but thanks to the broad perspective I developed during my Human Geography studies, I know what critical questions to ask.”

What’s your advice for today’s students?

“Look further than your field. Be open to taking a different route. Many sectors are not as you might expect, but much more fun and challenging. At least, that has been my experience with the public transport sector. My second tip: keep asking questions and don’t be afraid to set conditions during job interviews. What room is there for you to grow and develop? You’ve got something to offer, and you can expect the same from your employer. I’m personally always impressed when job applicants take this kind of stance.”